Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meera Shankar: First Indian Female Ambassador to USA in 60 years

Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar presenting her credentials to President Barack Obama

Photo: Meera Shankar presenting her credentials to President Barack Obama

India has now the first woman ambassador to Washington in 60 years; Meera Shankar, a career diplomat who was till recently posted in Germany.

Shankar, an Indian Foreign Service officer of the 1973 batch, succeeded Ambassador Ronen Sen. Earlier she had served as Director in the Prime Minister’s Office (1985-1991), Ministry of Commerce (1991-1995), and in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Now some of the core areas of her work involve India’s commercial negotiations with US companies for the supply of nuclear equipment under the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal, according to Meera Shankar’s statement to the press.

India’s nuclear spend is estimated at $150 billion, on which the US companies hoped for a major pie, but the biggest dampener for them turned out to be India's tough nuclear liability legislation that makes suppliers also potentially liable for eighty years.

Describing the deal as an instrument of transformation in India-US relations, Shankar said the growing defence cooperation between the two countries also reflected deeper mutual trust. ‘Bilateral defence trade between the two countries had rapidly risen to over $ 4 billion in the last few years with another $4 billion in the pipeline through the FMS route’, she said in an address on Tuesday on "Indo-US Relations: An Evolving Partnership" at Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University.

Another core area on which Shankar needs to concentrate on India’s interests is highlighting Indo-US common concerns of about terrorism and the closer counter-terrorism cooperation, the focus now being on strengthening exchange of intelligence and information sharing best practices and capacity building.

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